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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 07:03 GMT
Rio leads the American millennium
beach
The famous Copacabana beach was the focus for celebrations
An estimated five million revellers flooded onto Rio de Janiero's famous beaches to party and lead the Americas into the new millennium.

As is traditional each new year, perfume and hundreds of white flowers were cast into the surf as gifts for Yemanya, the goddess of the sea.

This year, however, the celebrations were bigger than ever.

Many revellers were dressed in white - a colour traditionally favoured by Yemanya. Thousands of others were dressed in the Brazilian national colours of green and yellow.

Christians pray for peace beneath Rio's giant statue of Christ
Most said they were planning to dance through the night to greet the first dawn of the new millennium - just to confirm if really had arrived.

Anchored off the coast, 10 cruise liners and dozens of private yahcts joined in the festivities by launching their own fireworks.

"I can say without any exaggeration that we will have the best New Year's celebration in the world," promised Rio tourist chief Gerard Bourgeaiseau.

"It will be a celebration where there will be no difference between the rich and the poor or the colour of one's skin."

Along the seafront streets were closed to traffic early in the evening of New Year's Eve, opening the way for massed samba bands to parade through the city.

As the midnight hour struck, fireworks streaked across the sky above Copacabana beach. Green and yellow - not surprisingly - a favoured colour.

Fears of a Millennium Bug strike passed unfounded although the national aviation agency barred any flights from taking off 15 minutes before and after midnight.

"The apocalypse wasn't on time, but that's Brazil for you," joked one reveller.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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